Friday, July 20, 2007

Four pillars make a sturdy network

posted by Andy Leff
What makes certain social networking sites fly, and others flop?

Web 2.0 and social computing expert Dion Hinchcliffe has the answer. He analyzed the components of successful social networking sites, and distilled them into four simple methods -- the pillars of social networking.

You can read Dion's full explanation in Social Computing Magazine, or you can enjoy the Cliff Notes version here:

Establish handles. Pure anonymity in the social networking sphere is often a direct path to a chaotic and inefficient site. Require participants to use handles, or user names. It will help you track who said what, and ensure people use your site properly. Handles also let users find each other and form groups within the social networking site, which builds community.

Allow for members in good standing. This is a fancy way of saying "lead by example." Create a connection between handles and their social behavior, and it will show other users what is and is not permitted. It also helps you recognize users who contribute positively to the site.

Build barriers to participation. Controlling who can and cannot participate on your site gives the site greater focus and credibility -- and gives you greater control. Basically, it's another layer of protection against chaos, and builds a social order without stifling the conversation.

Protect conversations from scale. Most Web conversations are two-way communications. So when you have hundreds or even thousands of users, tracking conversations and participating becomes nearly impossible. Create a method for users to organize themselves into smaller, more manageable groups. It will increase their involvement, and build your community.

As Dion says, "the exciting part of the Web is that it's made of people." That means YOUR challenge is to make the experience exciting for your audience, and useful for your business.

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